Because Matty represents the force of transcendent grace, his character is more symbolic than realistic. To what extent is Matty a real human being, to what extent the embodiment of divinity touching mankind? Certainly, he is an extreme example of the alienated existential protagonist in twentieth century literature. Cut off from the love—even the sympathy—of most people because of his hideous burns, he is wounded and set apart from the rest of humanity. Driven to existential introspection, he trusts only in his private visions, his own mystic perception of reality. Indeed, in a certain sense he is not a real person at all but a manifestation of epiphany, of God revealing Himself through man.
Golding allows the reader to view Matty through the skeptical eyes of Mr. Pedigree, a wretched pederast who sees the boy at first as simply a monster. The genial Sim Goodchild, well-meaning and rational, views the boy with pity but without realizing that he is a perfectly ordinary, although physically deformed, youth. The odious twins, Sophy and Toni Stanhope, cannot comprehend Matty at all, for their lives are consumed with sexual sadism and vanity. With the exception of the mysterious Arab Prince, all the other characters define themselves in terms of Matty—as they accept or reject him, misunderstand or understand his mission. The Arab (perhaps a symbol for the Second Coming of Christ) is as much a divine principle as Matty, and he stands alone as the final ambiguity.